Startup AVVAY taking the Oy! out of briefly using venues, talent, services
By Milt Capps updated 13 Sept 2018
Update: AVVAY said Sept. 13, 2018 that it's raise is coming in at $1MM, led by Zero G Capital, based in Denver, with participation from Matchstick Ventures, SpringTime Ventures and Service Provider Capital, among others.-Ed.
CONTENT creators who increasingly need hourly access to previously undiscoverable venues, plus talent and services may soon find that Nashville's AVVAY Inc. can take the oy vey! out of the process.
Jon Howard, formerly a guitarist who swung his axe for the Paramore band here, told Venture Nashville his startup serves meeting and live-entertainment or conference producers, YouTube and Instagram creators, photographers and videographers by taking off their backs the chores that beset him and his co-founders in their previous careers.
AVVAY also helps owners and managers of overnight and other traditionally dedicated venues -- Airbnb or VRBO players, coworking spaces, retail establishments and others -- monetize otherwise idle moments in their spaces, with revenue from by-the-hour usage often surpassing traditional revenue for individual overnight stays.
Howard emphasized that the kernel of an idea he created in 2015 has been nourished by broad recognition that, especially in the digital era, "authentic" personal connections in gatherings, as well as agile production and delivery of superior content are essential for creating value businesses, artists, customers or clients in any vertical.
In January, AVVAY made placeholder filings for raising its first outside capital. By March, according to Crunchbase, its funds-in totaled about $190K. The CEO did not disclose for publication target for the raise or its progress.
Howard confirmed for VNC that, for the moment, its initial raise remains open. He also acknowledged that a further raise is under consideration for the 2H2019-1H2020 timeframe.
Not long ago, Howard completed the 80-day TechStars program in Colorado. During that entrepreneurial sprint, AVVAY gross billings moved from a total $5K per week to $25K per week, said Howard.
The CEO said both his introduction to TechStars and his appreciation for the imperative of modeling and managing AVVAY on the basis of disciplined data collection and analysis resulted largely from his early talks with Phil Shmerling, managing member of InCrowd Capital, the Angel-investment platform based in Nashville.
The Techstars network he gained through the accelerator remains a vitally important asset, he added. (The next applications deadline for the Techstars Boulder accelerator is Oct. 14, 2018.)
Among others, Denver-based Mike Beaudoin -- founder and former co-CEO of the HomeAdvisor marketplace, board member of Healthgrades, etc. -- is an important resource, said Howard.
Howard made clear that, a bit farther down the road, he and his team believe the TechStars experience and lessons they learned building AVVAY can be shared with other Nashville tech startup founders, particularly those in sectors other than Healthcare.
Howard and his three co-founders are all 30- or 40-something husbands and fathers, he said.
AVVAY's employee #1 is software engineer Mike Johnson, and business development lead Liza Kawaller rounds-out the startup's 6 FTE crew. Four additional team members are to be added after the current raise closes.
Howard was still a touring musician in 2015 when he conceived what would become the AVVAY platform. His said his first call was to Nick De Partee, with whom he had periodically roomed, written songs and toured.
AVVAY is fully operational in the Nashville market. Other near-term target cities include Portland, Dallas, Houston and Chicago.
In its current model, AVVAY keeps 15% of each rental transaction. Next year, Howard said the company plans to add per-engagement premium charges for some reservations, talent acquisition, and other services.
AVVAY technology allows venue hosts to display any on-site services they offer alongside their AVVAY entry. AVVAY can also interoperate with hosts' calendars on Airbnb and similar accounts, in order to receive updates regarding hours in which hosts' venues are available for AVVAY bookings. He added that Airbnb hosts have thus far proven great hosts for AVVAY.
Asked about any regulatory risk of the sort that has met Airbnb and Uber in some markets, Howard said he believes there's no such risk inherent in AVVAY's business.
Asked about competitors, Howard said no incumbents are currently emulating AVVAY's model. Without elaborating, he said that execution of AVVAY's roadmap for the next 18 months will demonstrate its distinctive positioning more clearly.
VNC research suggests that currently relevant incumbents include Peerspace, Splacer, Storefront, Breather, and Arcadier, among others.
Howard (LinkedIn here), a native of Harrisburg, Pa., came to the Nashville area 12 years ago. Since then, his father, a semi-retired certified financial planner, has followed him.
"AVVAY" is "made-up," chosen from among other options mainly because its pleasing sound is similar to "AWAY" and the domain URL was available, the CEO explained. The brand's U.S. trademark application is pending. VNC